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Thoughts on Framing and Space

Tips to help you with framing and space while photographing children, written by mother, Shutter Sister, and photographer Tracey Clark.

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Sony a6300-First Impressions Read More

Sony a6300-First Impressions

When Sony's invitation to spend a couple of days shooting with the new a6300 in Miami arrived via email, I didn't have to think twice before sending my RSVP. Announced in February and shipping this...

Faking Bokeh in Photoshop?

Lori L. , Nov 10, 2007; 11:42 p.m.

I'm a wedding photographer and am just really delving into the world of options in postprocessing digital images. Recently, when viewing other photographers' online work I've started noticing bokeh in many images that looks unlike anything I've ever created with my L lenses wide open. The bokeh is often smaller than I would expect, and snakes around the image in some spots. Can anyone tell me, is this a Photoshop "trick" (plug-in, action, mask?).

Thanks for any advice.

sample, but hard to see


Denis Germain , Nov 11, 2007; 12:03 a.m.

Here is how... http://www.escrappers.com/lensblur.html it requires a couple of advanced techniques but works much better than the "standard" select and blur techniques that you will find in most tutorials.

Emre Safak , Nov 11, 2007; 12:29 a.m.

Then there are these: http://www.lensbabies.com/

Edward Ingold , Nov 11, 2007; 08:38 a.m.

"Faking" bokeh (out of focus background) with Photoshop depends on your Photoshop skill level. This hinges on selection, masking and blending, in addition to various filter options.

For advanced instruction on masking, I suggest you read "Masking and Compositing" by Katrin Eismann.

Your example is rife with artifacts. Back to the drawing board!

Tony Bynum , Nov 11, 2007; 09:10 a.m.

youre in trouble now, my observation now is that most portrait shooters and wedding photographers cant live without PS. In fact, for most, it's their bread and butter. I see so many shots that are not possible under real life conditions published and hanging on walls that I wondered if there were any shooters left just printing mostly native files. A little levels and some contrast and saturation are a must if you shoot raw, but today, most of the wedding stuff is way over done IMHO. I love to look at it, but I'd hate to spend the time making the shots on a computer.

Harry Joseph , Nov 11, 2007; 09:45 a.m.

Your sample photo is making my eyes hurt !

Peter A (NYC) , Nov 11, 2007; 09:51 a.m.

Harry, you're a poet.

Jeff Owen , Nov 11, 2007; 12:51 p.m.

If you use a lens that is labeled DO (diffraction optics) then you will get this effect for free. My 70-300 IS DO lens gives this effect wide open.

Bryan Tan , Nov 13, 2007; 12:27 a.m.

Jeff, are you serious? Is the bokeh really that ugly? If so.....then that's the downside to DO. Hmm..

Michael Blatner , Feb 16, 2008; 01:36 p.m.


A simple way to do this is to paint in the bokeh where you want it to appear with a soft edged brush. These would be the steps in Photoshop:

  1. Open an image and duplicate the layer you want to apply the effect to (press ctr/cmd J on your keyboard).
  2. Blur this layer by using Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur or Lens Blur.
  3. Mask the blurred layer: Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All (or alt/opt click the layer mask icon in the Layers Palette).
  4. With your mouse click the layer mask you created in the Layers Palette to make sure it's activated (it will have double edged corners). Switch to the Brush Tool by picking it in the Toolbox or pressing the letter B on your keyboard. Press the letter D on your keyboard to set white as your foreground color.
  5. Now you're ready to paint in the blurred effect with your mouse in the image window. These are some handy shortcuts for controlling the brush tool:
    • The square bracket keys [ ] increase and decrease the size of the brush.
    • Shift + the square bracket keys increase and decrease the softness of the brush's edges.
    • Typing in numbers changes the opacity (strength) of the brush (i.e., typing 30 changes the brush's opacity to 30%)

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